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By Marge Knoth, Author, Activity Professional
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Marge Knoth attended Purdue
University and took her activity
director training at Indiana
University and her social
service at Ball State. She is
the author of ten books for
activity professionals. Her
books have been used as
teaching guides in colleges,
trade schools, and in activity
director courses throughout the
U.S. and Canada. They have
won both national and state
awards from the National
Federation of Press Women
and Women’s Press Club of
Marge has written a monthly
column, "A Letter from Marge"
for Current Activities in Long
Term Care. She has been
published in Family Circle,
Lady’s Circle, Women’s Circle,
Indianapolis Woman, Christian
Science Monitor, Event,
various Christian and craft
publications, and other
magazines and newspapers.
She wrote a weekly newspaper
column called “Do You
Remember?”, and wrote and
recorded a long-running series
of nostalgic radio
commercials. Also, she is a
motivational speaker having
traveled the United States and
Canada speaking at many state
and province activity
Finding Success in Your Profession.
By Marge Knoth
Do you ever find yourself totally frustrated in your job as activity director? Perhaps it is
one of those days when the staff are being uncooperative, the aides are refusing to
bring residents to activities, the evening shift are balking about serving food to residents
during your resident/family party, the maintenance man is stretching his coffee break to
avoid setting up your tables, and your administrator wants the newsletter NOW!
You may feel like throwing up your hands and walking out. You may be asking if it is
worth it all, or if you are spinning you wheels for nothing. You may be questioning why
you even remain in this job. Perhaps you feel there is no chance of your being
successful as an activity director.
But then you question, What is success, anyway?
Surprisingly, success is not always what you think it is. In the midst of turmoil, you may
be quite successful and not even know it. If this is one of those days for you, believe me,
I understand. I, too, have experienced my share of them. Even though such difficult days
are few and far between, most activity directors can expect them to surface from time to
time. The important thing is to know that, like everything else, they pass. No matter how
you feel today, be assured that you are accomplishing a challenging work which many
people would be unable to handle.
You are generous beyond the call of duty. You are constantly giving of your time, your
talent, your love, and your energy. You are extremely patient, and you give a soft answer
when you might feel like screaming. No doubt, you are familiar with the saying, “We can’
t see the forest for the trees”. Similarly, with so many responsibilities upon your
shoulders, it is sometimes nearly impossible from your point of view, to see the fruits of
your labor. Consequently, you may become frustrated and begin to question if your work
is making any difference at all, or if you are really successful in what you do. But I see
your position from a different perspective. Having traveled thousands of miles and
talked with activity directors all over the United States and Canada, I hear their
But even more, I hear of their successes. Oh, they may not call them successes; they
see them simply as activities. Yet, I perceive that they are extremely successful. They
are making life so much more meaningful for their residents. I detect that hint of pride
as they excitedly speak of their profession. And that is as it should be. You need to take
pride in your work. That is part of the rewards, or the successes, of your job.
In the activity field you must learn to measure your own successes and not wait for the
staff to build you up. How wonderful it would be if you could count on them to give you
the strokes you need. After all, it does not take a lot to keep an activity director happy: a
little recognition of her/his efforts; an occasional “Thank you for being here for the
residents”; an “I appreciate all your effort”; a word of encouragement, “Keep up the good
work!”; or a pat on the back for a job well done. How nice it would be to occasionally
hear, “I understand how you feel.” or “You are so valuable to this facility.” or “I think you
deserve a raise.” Or, most of all, “Here, let me help!” If the facility staff regularly give you
the recognition you’ve earned, be grateful. For most activity directors, though, it does not
happen. So you become responsible for finding your own rewards in your day-to-day
work. Your self-esteem does not depend on others. If you use their reactions to
measure your worth, you are giving them tremendous power over you. No, you
learn to recognize your own worth!
So how do you perceive success? “Your answer can affect your well-being,” says Frank
Grazian of Communications Briefings. If you see it as making lots of money, gaining
recognition, or striving only for results, you may be setting yourself up for a fall,” he
continues. Why? Because you’re basing your well-being on external rewards that you
may be unable to control. When these fail, you suffer. Even if you gain the rewards, you
might reach a point where you will begin to question your achievements.”
In your heart, you know what is really important. You don’t have to look outward for
strokes. Find your success in little things–a smile on a resident’s face, a successful
community event, a met goal, knowing you are making residents’ remaining time on
earth more meaningful. Take pride in the work you do. Know that activity directing is a
vital occupation. You can’t be all things to all people, just be the best you can be, but
don’t be overly concerned with results.
“Expect to succeed,” says Dr. Wolf Rinke. “Nothing emphasizes a positive attitude more
than success. Regard success as the normal state of affairs, and lack of success as
the exception.” Note the difference between what happens when a man says to
himself, “I am a failure!” and when he says, “I have failed three times!” My grandfather
was a farmer, who with my grandmother raised six productive children. He lived through
two world wars and the Great Depression. Three times Grandpa Brettnacher lost
everything he had. Should he have claimed himself to be a failure, he could have died in
depression and self-pity, and his family could have gone hungry. But did he quit? No!
He was not a failure. He simply failed three times. Each time, he pulled himself up by
his boot straps and started over. When he died fairly young, he left Grandma enough
money to live comfortably for many years. And when she died, there still was enough left
to give a small amount to each of her six children. Grandpa was a success!
Don’t sweat other’s opinions of you or your work. Many prominent people were judged
unsuccessful. Yet, sometimes, success can only be seen in hindsight.
* Thomas Edison was considered dumb and slow.
* Albert Einstein didn’t walk until he was four years old.
* Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for lacking ideas and went bankrupt several
times before he built Disneyland.
* At Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the director wrote, “Can’t act, slightly bald, can dance
* Beethoven’s mother called him hopeless as a composer.
* George Westinghouse was thrown out of college, yet he secured a patent before he
was 20 years old. He invented the rotary steam engine, and today his name is a
We must take control of our lives and build ourselves up in our struggle toward
success. How do we do that? One way to edify yourself is to build a success file. Maybe
a resident’s daughter sent you a lovely note of thanks for what you did for her mom. Slip
it in your success file. Maybe you haven’t smoked for a while year. Drop a “victory” note
in your success file. Maybe your “sweetie” dropped by when you were not at your desk
and left you a love note. File it. When you are having a bad day, pull out your success
file and smile. Know you are making a difference.
Linda S. Kotkin, of Kotkins Communications, recommends you start each day by asking
yourself some questions: What am I proud of in my life right now? What can I do to help
someone? These questions help you to evaluate your own successes, however
insignificant they may seem. Answer these questions on paper, and drop them in your
Zig Ziglar, the great encourager says, “You are not inferior or superior to anyone. You
determine your success, not by comparing yourself to others, rather you determine your
success by comparing your accomplishments to your capabilities. You are number one
when you do the best you can with what you have every day.”
Success means different things to different people. Someone once said, “Success is
the willingness to bear pain.” Someone else said, “Success is not purchased at any
one time, but rather on the installment plan.”
And how true those statements are! Things that come quickly and easily are seldom as
appreciated as those achieved through hard work, frustration, sweat, and struggle. Will
Rogers once said, “If you want to succeed in life, you’ve got to know what you are doing,
believe in what you are doing, and love what you are doing. And I think that is why activity
directors keep at it. They know what they are doing, they believe in what they are doing,
and they love what they are doing.
So, to sum it up, don’t be overly influenced by other’s opinions of you or your position.
Sure, it hurts when they don’t understand that your job is so much more than fun and
games. Sure we all need strokes from others. Even so, you can survive, and even thrive,
in your profession without them–if you learn to recognize your own successes and your
own worth. So activity directors, take a bow. No doubt, you are some of the most
successful people around!
God bless you all. Marge